Downtown office properties are no longer disposable, throw-away structures with just a 30-year life span. Today, adaptive use initiatives are revitalizing buildings, changing the purpose of the towers to meet current market demands and extending the buildings’ useful life by many decades. At the 2016 ULI Fall Meeting in Dallas last month, panelists demonstrated the case for redeveloping downtown properties.
Lawrence Adams, a senior vice president at design firm Forrest Perkins, shared the story of the redevelopment of One Main Place tower, a 33-story tower at 1201 Main Street in downtown Dallas. The 1.1 million-square-foot (sq 102,000 m) building, completed in 1968, was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. After decades of use as an office tower, the ownership—the KFK Group of New Orleans—began exploring concepts for transforming a portion of the building into a hotel.
Dallas’s downtown hotel market has been hot in recent years, and a number of developers have been redeveloping downtown office buildings into hotels, Adams said.
A financial institution had vacated a significant amount of space and the building owner saw this hotel as a means for improved profitability, so Forest Perkins was engaged.
Adams said the property presented several challenges, including 29,000-square-foot (2,700 sq m) floor plates that were not conducive to typical hotel layout. Adams’s firm came up with a solution by creating a number of 50-foot-long (15 m) junior suites throughout the hotel.
But the biggest challenge was the owner’s need to finish the project in 2015, before the calendar turned over at the beginning of the new year.
“The schedule was a very intense schedule,” Adams said.
However, the construction timetable was met and the Westin Dallas Downtown, a 326-room hotel, was opened in December 2015. And it is a success.
“The hotel is performing very well, with 65 percent occupancy and a $200 average daily rate,” Adams said.
In Manhattan, Brookfield Property Partners is transforming another 1960s-vintage building at 450 West 33rd Street.
With its precast concrete exterior and undersized windows, the building was the butt of jokes about its unattractive appearance, said Sara B. Queen, executive vice president of asset management at Brookfield.
“We affectionately called it the elephant’s foot building,” she said.
The 16-story, 1.7 million-square-foot (158,000 sq m) structure, originally erected for warehouse space, has massive 120,000-square-foot (11,100 sq m) floor plates—a rarity in New York City, Queen said.
However, the property has a strategic location near Madison Square Garden and the Hudson Yards—and, of greatest importance, it is part of Brookfield’s Manhattan West, which will be a 7 million-square-foot (650,000 sq m) mixed-use project upon completion.
Brookfield, which acquired the building in 2011 for $299 per square foot ($3,218 per sq m), elected to launch an extensive $353 million renovation. The project entails removing the concrete exterior and replacing it with a skin of pleated glass designed by noted architect Joshua Prince-Ramus of the REX architecture firm.
Brookfield has renamed the building Five Manhattan West.
These two towers send home the lesson that old buildings do not have to sink into obsolescence. With vision, imagination, and a willingness to consider new uses and take bold steps, urban towers can be reborn.